Women who become vegans in later years may be expected to suffer fewer deaths from smoking-related cancers than those who give up meat, a recent study suggests.

Researchers studied data on 53, 336 women aged 18 to 30 who were part of the United States Public Health Survey. During the survey, 3, 016 women, or 8 percent, said they were a vegetarian or vegan.

During 30 years, women were more prone to suffer from smoking-related cancers for these women, who were typically carcinomas of the lung, esophagus, kidney or liver, bowel or colon.

“These results suggest that vegans may decrease their [risk] of diseases [that stem] from smoking, including cancers of the lung, esophagus, kidney, bowel and colon, ” said study co-author Michael Music, a researcher at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond who wasn’t involved in the study.

Adding as a potentially helpful component, “discussion about the importance of replacing animal-based protein sources of protein and other micronutrients, ” exposure to harmful chemicals from smoking’s exposure to the environment and smoke’s effects on sperm, the study authors said.

For the study, researchers categorized women who lived a vegetarian or vegan ethic as never smokers.

Since 1970, the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has classified vegans as those who have never smoked, but previous research suggests such individuals may not be aware of the benefits of adopting a vegetarian diet for cancer prevention.

Concerns over the future of plant-based protein consumption have spurred some scientists to pursue the consumption of plant protein, currently done as a healthy source of protein but that also has been linked to iron and other micronutrients.

For the current study, researchers examined data from the ProFood Project, an ongoing prospective study of more than 20, 000 women, children and their caregivers, also started between 1973 and 2014. They followed up for any cancer-related deaths from 2000 to 2016.

In 2013, 21, 268 women, or 22 percent, said they were a vegetarian or vegan.

During the study year, cancer-related deaths from smoking-related cancers decreased in the five-year comparison from 11. 1 percent to 9. 3 percent.

When the researchers looked at all causes of cancer deaths, those who remained non-vegans were no different from those who became vegetarians or vegans: the five-year cancer death rates fell from 26. 8 percent to 19. 7 percent.

Smokers treated with tamoxifen, a common chemotherapy used to fight cancer, were three times less likely to die from a cancer than other types of cancer.

The current study is correlative, and does not prove that vegetarian or vegan diets are protective against the development of cancer, the researchers said.